The Combined Military Services Museum is home to a very rare and priceless piece of history. A Viking sword unearthed from Heybridge at the end of the causeway, which dates to the Battle of Maldon in the 10th Century.
For any Viking or Nordic history enthusiast, a visit to the museum is sure to guarantee a thrilling experience. The museum’s new patron, Bruce Crompton has also released a video talking about the brief history of the sword.
The true story of the Battle of Maldon is still shrouded in mystery and the exact location is still unknown. Information regarding the battle comes from the Anglo-Saxon poem, the Battle of Maldon, and the Norse Sagas, both of which are assumed to have a high propaganda context.
Brihtnoth, or Byrhtnoð in Old English, the Ealdorman of Essex, was given the task of defending the East coast from Viking raids. He successfully defeated a raid in AD 988. Three years later, they returned to raid Maldon, which housed a Royal Mint and to seek revenge for their defeat. The legend states that the Danish King Svein Forkbeard landed with 4000 men in 93 ships at the isle of Northey, linked to the mainland of Maldon by a causeway at low tide.
Brihtnoth arrived at the causeway with his army of Housecarls, the professional warriors of his household, and the Fyrd, a locally raised levy of men he prepared to give battle to the Vikings. Whilst waiting r the tide to drop, they exchanged insults across the causeway with the Vikings demanding money to be withdrawn. Brihtnoth conveyed to the raiders, that the only ‘treasure’ they would get would be the spears with poisoned points and ancient blades of his warriors, and that their long journey was a pity to be wasted as they would leave empty-handed.
Only three of Brihtnoth’s warriors were required to defend the narrow causeway against the larger Viking force, creating a stalemate. However, Brihtnoth made the error of allowing the Vikings to cross the causeway so they could engage in battle. The Saxons formed a shield wall while the Vikings attacked in a wedge formation. Brihtnoth fought with the Housecarls in the centre of the line, defeating two Vikings. However, he was wounded 5 times with the most serious of the last blows being from a javelin and a blade cut to his sword arm which eventually led to his death in the battle.
With the death of their leader, the Fyrd fled, leaving Brihtnoth’s Housecarls making a desperate last stand around their fallen leader’s body, to avenge the death of the one they loved. The Saxon warriors inflicted such high casualties to the Vikings before their deaths, that the Vikings could not conduct any raid as they had too few left to even man their ships after the battle.
The Battle of Maldon was lost with many the Saxon nobility and professional warrior class killed. Whilst a Saxon defeat is recorded, Brihtnoth has been immortalised as a heroic failure and the bravery of his Housecarls dying around his body has been used as an example of English grit to this day.